Accepted your Offer? Time to Pick Housing!

As an incoming student, one of the biggest concerns is housing. It is the first time many students will be living on their own in a new place. Luckily, Penn State has a ton of great housing options to make you feel right at home!

A traditional style dorm in East!

East – This is a very popular option among first-year students as it is the only part of campus completely occupied by first-year students. East offers a traditional living experience with double dorms and communal bathrooms located on each floor. The dining commons were recently updated, and now boast a new salad bar, deli, and sushi place! Many first-year students prefer the atmosphere of east and comfort of living among their peers. East is located near Beaver Stadium and the BJC – perfect for football games, concerts, and THON.

West – West is filled with brick buildings and boasts a traditional collegiate feel. West is conveniently located near many classroom buildings, the library and Rec Hall (gym). West dorms are traditional style. Many claim that West dining commons bake the best cookies on campus!

Pollock Commons has lots of great food options!

Pollock – Pollock is another popular option among first and second year students. Pollock is conveniently located near the White Building (gym), many classroom buildings, and is not far from downtown. Pollock has a very good dining commons and computer lab. Within Pollock Commons is The Mix which is an extremely popular to-go restaurant!

South – Much of South has been recently renovated. South dining commons offer a lot of different options from sushi to Italian. South is popular due to its close proximity to downtown amenities, such as shopping and restaurants. South also houses all sororities. While it is not common for many first-year students to live in South during the regular academic year, many students are housed in South during the summer session.

Redifer Commons located in South has up to ten different dining options!

Nittany Apartments – Nittany Apartments give students the ability to live in an apartment while on campus. Each apartment has its own bathroom and kitchen. Nittany apartments are typically reserved for upperclassmen and athletes.

Eastview Terrace – Do you need your own space? Eastview Terrace is the perfect option for you! Eastview Terrace is filled with single dorms. All of the dorms are comprised of a bed, dresser, desk, and private bathroom. Every floor also has a common area and study space!



Each student gets a generous size closet within the suite!

North – North is another area of campus conveniently located near many classroom buildings, such as the Business building. North is suite style which many students prefer. All of the suites have their own bathroom, which are cleaned by housing. Another perk of North is that the suites are air conditioned – perfect on those August nights!

No matter where you choose to live remember that you will always be surrounded by tons of Penn State students, and have access to RAs who are always willing to help!

Top five coolest buildings at Penn State

It’s no secret that there are a lot of buildings on Penn State’s campus. With 7,343 acres and 947 buildings at University Park, there’s no shortage of cool places on campus to eat, hang out, and study. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Bio-Behavioral Health (BBH) and Health and Human Development (HHD) Buildings

The Bio-Behavioral Health Building (foreground) and the Health and Human Development Building (background) offer sunny, quiet spaces to hang out and study.

Inside of the HHD Building

Staircase in the atrium of the BBH Building.

Since these buildings were designed to look almost exactly alike, it’s fair to include them together. These buildings are some of the newest on campus; the BBH building was constructed in 2013, while renovations on the HHD building were completed in 2015. Personally, the HHD building is my favorite study spot on campus; it’s always quiet, and large windows provide views of College Avenue that are perfect for people watching. That’s not to say that the BBH building can’t hold its own in the views department; sunny days are perfect for watching people play frisbee on the HUB Lawn. On the inside, lounge chairs, tables, and a quiet atmosphere make focusing on work easy in both buildings.

Business Building

Atrium of the Business Building.

View from the third floor, overlooking the Aboretum.

Bird’s-eye view of the atrium.

While not the most creatively named building on campus, the Business Building is certainly up there as one of the coolest. Home to the Smeal College of Business, this building is always full of students studying, clubs advertising events, and advisers helping students find jobs and internships. It’s also home to Blue Chip Bistro, in case you get hungry between classes or just need a study break. The atrium also features a stock market ticker!

Westgate Building

Outside of the Westgate Building.

Study area.

View of students studying over Atherton Street.

Formerly known as the Information Services and Technology (IST) Building, in 2017 this building was renamed the Westgate Building. Home to IST and Security and Risk Analysis (SRA) majors, this is definitely one of the largest buildings on campus. One of the coolest things about this building is the fact that it serves as a bridge over busy Atherton Street- nothing motivates you to study quite like sitting on top of 45 m.p.h. traffic!

Stuckeman Family Building

Outside of the Stuckeman.

Student work lines the walls on the ground floor.

A gallery showcases different student work throughout the year.

Home to the Stuckeman School for architecture, landscape architecture, and graphic design students, the Stuckeman Family Building is striking both inside and out. The green copper exterior makes it unlike any other building on campus, as does the work that goes on inside of the building. The ground floor is home to showcases of student’s work, from graphic design posters to 3-D architectural renderings. Upper levels of the building have studios for students to work on projects in. Though it may be tucked away on the north side of campus, those who know about the Stuckeman Building fall in love with its uniqueness.

Old Main

View of Old Main from its lawn on a fall afternoon.

View right after walking in the front doors, featuring the famous Land Grant Frescoes.

Upstairs hallway of Old Main.

Upstairs sitting area (open to the public!)

Up-close view of the clock tower at night.

No list of cool buildings at Penn State is complete without mentioning the most iconic building on campus: Old Main. Built and rebuilt throughout the years, Old Main as we know it today was built in the 1930s and at one point included a student lounge and sandwich shop. While today it is home to Penn State’s administrative offices, the building is still open to the public, who are welcome to come see the Land Grant Frescoes that were painted in the early 1940s.

Those Other Classes

Penn State offers over 160 majors. How awesome is that? With this wide variety of choices, there certainly is a great fit for everyone. But what about those other classes students have to take that are not in their field or related to their major? What kind of options does Penn State have for these classes?

“Those other classes” are referred to as “General Education” or “Gen Ed” classes. These include your general arts, sciences, and humanities. Some students do not like these courses, but there is no excuse for that! Penn State offers so many unique options that can enhance your learning experiences and provide you with new and interesting classes! There is even a whole website dedicated just for researching which classes are available!  Let us take a look at a few of these classes, with insight from two professors and a student!

ASTRO 001: Astronomy and Astrophysics

A perfect class for those non-science majors with an interest in Astronomy! There is so much to learn about Astronomy and the universe, so why not spend a semester of your college career learning some basics? This class discusses everything from lights and atoms to the Milky Way! It is an introductory course and only requires basic mathematics skills, allowing students of all majors to have an ability to take it. It is three credits, and covers a general education, natural science credit!

Professor Jane Charlton teaches a section of this course using a video game her and her colleagues have written! Professor Charlton’s favorite part of teaching Astro 001 is when students become “so much caught up in the story of our video game that they forget they are doing their homework”. Imagine taking a class that is so enjoyable, you forget you are actually doing homework…

On top of that, Professor Charlton added that students should take Astro 001 not only to satisfy their Gen Ed requirement with a reasonable workload, but to “gain perspective on the meaning of their existence and their place in the Universe”.

KINES 011: Beginner Downhill Skiing

The amount of gen ed health/gym classes available is incredible. There are so many different interesting offerings that a whole blog post could be written on just those classes. From fly fishing, to ice skating, to introduction to different team sports you may not typically play (handball, pickleball, other “court sports”) Penn State offers a fantastic amount of activities.

I chose to highlight “Beginner Downhill Skiing” because it is one of the most unique courses. Laura Gilham, with help of many Teaching Assistants nationally certified through the Professional Ski Instructors of America, instructs the course. Laura stated that “on-snow class sizes” are kept small to “optimize learning and keep it fun”. She also added, “You can’t learn if you can’t have fun”.

When asked why students should take Beginner Downhill Skiing as their GHA, she said “It’s a great way to get out and have fun in the winter time!” along with “There’s more to winter than the frigid walks across campus.” If you want something to look forward to in the winter, this class may be for you!

While choosing your general healthy and physical activity requirements (GHAs), be sure to take advantage of the unique offerings Penn State provides! Each is typically worth 1.5 credits and three are needed, so choose your top two favorite!

INART005: Integrative Arts- Performing Arts

Rolling with the idea of taking classes you may not have the opportunity to take again, explore all of the art options! GA or “General Art” education classes are part of graduation requirements, so find a fit that is quality for you to take!

Junior MIS Major George Slater took the class INART 005 during his Sophomore year to meet this requirement, and provided some insight on the course.

George said that students attend plays at theaters on campus or downtown in the evenings. Students must attend 7 plays out of a possible 10 during the semester and write reviews on them. The plays are typically offered Monday-Thursday.

George stated about the class, “I actually enjoyed having the opportunity to take this course and see plays I never would have attended if it were not for taking this class. I would definitely recommend it to students looking for an enjoyable Gen Ed Art to take!”

As this is my first semester at University Park, I have not had a full opportunity yet to explore all these different course options. I am excited to be able to schedule my last three semesters with so many diverse courses in mind and would encourage all students to invest time into finding classes they will find interesting! Remember, there is no excuse to only like the classes in your major, those other classes can be just as entertaining!

Student Engagement Space helps students find opportunities

Penn State is a big school that offers countless opportunities to join clubs, study abroad, and complete internships. But with so many options, it can be hard to dig through and find the best programs for you. Enter the Student Engagement Center, which just opened its physical space (appropriately called the Student Engagement Space) right in the middle of the HUB on campus.

Mike Zeman, the director of the Student Engagement Network at Penn State, is in charge of making sure the Engagement Space is achieving its mission of helping students find experiences that will help them make the most of their time at the University.

“There’s a consensus that engagement, especially at Penn State, is moving towards not just the big-box classroom, GPA, credit-based degree,” Zeman said when I sat down to talk to him about what he referred to as “the Space.”

The new Student Engagement Space, located in the middle of campus in the HUB-Robeson Center, helps students find clubs, internships, and study abroad opportunities at Penn State.

The Student Engagement Network has helped (and continues to help) students complete outside-of-classroom opportunities in part by giving out grants to students who wish to study abroad or conduct undergraduate research. However, since it’s not possible to give a grant to every student, the Space is here to serve as a central place where students can walk in, talk to an intern about their interests and goals, and be directed towards opportunities they can pursue.

In addition to the building of the physical Engagement Space, Zeman recently put in a proposal for an online Portal that he described as “something similar to Amazon,” where students can search for opportunities that exist both on and off campus.

“We’ve been talking about [the online portal] being built using input from students in the [physical] Space,” Zeman said.

Zeman went on to explain how an online portal would work.

“Your personal preferences that you opt in to enter, your career interests, your personal interests, your courses, your course history, your history of signing up for student clubs and organizations, [those will all] inform the equation that we use to guide you,” Zeman said.

In addition to being beneficial to students to find individual experiences, Zeman said the Space could also be used for clubs to reach out and work together with other organizations on projects and events. He described it as a kind of involvement fair that happens every day throughout the year.

“[Penn State] is a big place, but there are mechanisms that will make you feel right at home with your interests,” Zeman said.

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